For the past 16 years, I have spoken and written extensively about Fathers – their importance, the valuable life lessons they teach, and the challenges they face as they go about the business of positively shaping the minds and souls of our children – our global village’s “heart and soul”.
I met my Dad for the first time when I was 16.
He resurfaced in my life four years later – our interaction was sporadic and brief. In retrospect, not having his consistent presence in my life never created a deep hole that needed to be filled. The adults in my family immersed me in love.
As I learned bits and pieces about his life, I grew to love him. So, who was he? A perfectionist and a stickler for punctuality. Like most men, he had dreams. In his youth, he was a jazz musician –played saxophone. His demeanor was serious and “no-nonsense.” Yet, at times he was jovial.
When he was happy or amused, he was quick to flash a dimpled smile – a dimpled smile that I inherited. And when he was unhappy, he didn’t have to say a word. The intense look in his dark brown eyes spoke volumes. He was a man who had many disappointments in his life. He found himself fin the position of having to make some very difficult choices. The little that I know about him, tells me that he wasn’t the sort of guy to throw himself a “pity party”. When life threw him a curve ball and knocked him down, he quickly got back on his feet, dusted himself off, and moved on.
In 2002, three years after I launched IN SEARCH OF FATHERHOOD®, I decided to reconnect with my Dad.
I wanted to get know him – not just as “my Dad” – but as a person – a Man. That’s all I cared about. This was not about asking him why he had not been in my life. I was looking at the present and the future and the two of us communicating and building a relationship. But first, I had to find him. I had no idea where he was.
It did not take me too long to find him. How? Thank heavens for GOOGLE! Now, that I had his address, what was I going to do? Pay him a visit? No way. I decided that I would write him a letter. It turned out to be a six-page handwritten letter. I told him that I only wanted to get to know him – I was not asking him for money or material possessions—that if he chose not to get in touch with me, I would understand. It would not change how I felt about him. Not knowing what to expect, I mailed the letter. One week elapsed – no response. Two weeks elapsed – no response.
Just around the time that I began to stop expecting to hear from him, my phone rings. Although many years had elapsed since I last spoke with him, I instantly recognized his voice. I learned that he had health issues – diabetes and prostate cancer. Despite his health issues, he seemed happy . . . resilient.
“Let’s get together for lunch or dinner soon,” he said.
“Geat! When?” I exclaimed
“Well, how about Saturday?”
“Okay. Great! What time? Where?”
“Call me Friday evening at 7:30 and we’ll talk about it and decide what time and where to meet.”
We talked for a few more minutes and then ended the call.
Needless to say, I was deliriously happy. But his admission to me about his health was sobering. How long did he have to live? How advanced was the prostate cancer? I began researching medical information about diabetes and prostate cancer on the Internet, located information on new developments in medical treatment for these health issues which I printed out along with a list of medical professionals he could contact for a second opinion in the United States and Europe. Within 24 hours of our phone call, I mailed the medical information to my Dad. It would arrive a day before my call. I could discuss it with him on the call Friday night, or it could wait until we met up on Saturday.
And when Friday rolled around, knowing that my Father was a stickler for punctuality, I did not wait until 7:30 to call him. At 7:27 P.M., I picked up the telephone and dialed his number. The phone rang . . . and rang . . . and rang. Finally, I heard a recording which asked that the caller leave a message. Did I leave a message? Of course, I did.
- Did he return my call? No.
- Did he ever get in touch with me? No.
- Did I ever get in touch with him? No.
Why not? I decided the best action to take was to give him space and not bombard him with telephone calls and letters. After all, he knew that I loved him, and most importantly, I had made it very clear to him that my door was always open. He knew how to reach me.
Fast forward to 2014.
Twelve years had elapsed since my last conversation with my Dad. I had resigned myself to “leaving things alone” and not contacting him. I was still leaving the door open, after 12 years. For some reason, the day before Father’s Day, I felt a strong impulse to get in touch with him. Suddenly, I realized I did not have his telephone number. So, what did I do? I decided to “GOOGLE” him, get his telephone number, call him and tell him I was calling to wish him a “Happy Father’s Day”. I typed his name into the GOOGLE search engine. And that is how I learned that he died – seven years earlier – on 21 April 2007.
I can take comfort in the fact that he died knowing that I loved him.
And I will always treasure our last conversation.